Woburn ()is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA. The population was 37,258 at the 2000 census. Woburn is the birthplace of Anglo-American scientist Benjamin Thompson, later known as Count Rumford, who made great contributions to the nascent science of thermodynamics. Woburn is located 11 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts, and just south of the intersection of I-93 and I-95. Woburn is pronounced woo-burn rather than woe-burn as many believe it to be. With a Boston Accent, many people, especially those who live in Woburn, pronounce it "woo-bin."
Woburn got its name from Woburn, Bedfordshire. Woburn played host to the first religious ordination in the Americas on Nov. 22, 1642. Rev. Thomas Carter was sworn in by many of the most prominent men of New England including John Cotton, minister of the First Church of Boston, Richard Mather minister of the First Church of Dorchester and Capt. Edward Johnson co-founder of the church and town of Woburn. The establishment of the church preceded the incorporation of the town, as was customary in those days.
Gershom Flagg's tannery was built in 1668. The Middlesex Canal was opened in 1803. Thompson established a tannery at Cummingsville in 1823. The Boston and Lowell Railroad started operating thru Woburn in 1835 and the Woburn Sentinel newspaper began in 1839. In 1840 the first membership library opened. The telegraph started operating in Woburn in 1867, the public library opened in 1879. The telephone was introduced in Woburn in 1882 and electric lights in 1885. In 1951 Route 128 opened, in 1960 Route 93 was built thru town, and in 1962 the rail depot closed.
"America's oldest active gun club," the Massachusetts Rifle Association, was founded in 1875 and moved to Woburn in 1876. It is still open today.
In contemporary history, Woburn was the scene of a high profile water contamination crisis. During the mid to late 1970's, the local community became concerned over the high incidence of childhood leukemia and other illnesses, particularly in the Pine Street area of east Woburn. After high levels of chemical contamination were found in City of Woburn’s Wells G & H in 1979, some members of the local community suspected that the unusually high incidence of leukemia, cancer and a wide variety of other health problems were linked to the possible exposure to volatile organic chemicals in the groundwater pumped from Wells G & H. In May, 1982, a number of citizens whose children had either developed or died from leukemia filed a civil lawsuit against two corporations, W. R. Grace and Company and Beatrice Foods. Grace's subsidiary, Cryovac, and Beatrice were suspected of contaminating the groundwater by improperly disposing of trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (Perc) and other industrial solvents at their facilities in Woburn near Wells G & H. In a controversial decision with Judge Walter Jay Skinner presiding over what many considered a bungled trial (the judge ruled the jurors should answer questions which the jurors and many others considered confusing) Beatrice was acquitted and Grace only paid 6.6 million, most of which went to the lawyers and lawyer fees. An EPA report later found Beatrice and Grace both responsible for the contamination. A book titled A Civil Action was written about the case by author Jonathan Harr, and in 1998 the book was turned into a movie starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall, also entitled A Civil Action.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.9 square miles (33.4 km²), of which, 12.7 square miles (32.8 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) of it (1.71%) is water.
There were 14,997 households out of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.5% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.6% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.1% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 34.9% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 15.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 95.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $54,897, and the median income for a family was $66,364. Males had a median income of $45,210 versus $33,239 for females. The per capita income for the city was $26,207. About 4.5% of families and 6.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.9% of those under age 18 and 5.4% of those age 65 or over.
The two middle schools are the John F. Kennedy Middle School and Joyce Middle School.
The high school is Woburn Memorial High School.
In recent years, a number of the city's schools have been rebuilt, starting with the Reeves. After the new Reeves school was completed, the Shamrock Elementary moved into the old Reeves building, so that the new Shamrock building could be built on the same location as its predecessor. Upon the completion of the Shamrock, the Malcolm White School moved into the old Reeves building so that the new White School could be built. Most recently, Woburn Memorial High School was rebuilt, and the entire campus was redone. It is proposed that the Goodyear Elementary will be rebuilt in coming years.
There is also a private Catholic school, St. Charles. Its grades range from K-8 along with a newly added pre-school. It is part of the adjacent St. Charles Parish.